Quest for the Horned Guan – Cerro Paquisis, Santiago, Guatemala.

IMG_73156 February 2017

In my trek to see the legendary Horned Guan, my dreams of seeing the amazing creature appears to end in smoke and ruins. After a long and steep hike up the mountain, we are confronted by a raging wildfire at our exact Horned Guan destination. However, not all hope is lost. Adjacent to the pillaring smoke and sweltering flames, the guan appears. This endangered bird is one of the top target species of Guatemala, and I am privileged to get great views and capture a unique flight photo. Thanks to local guide, Cruz Chikibal, for a successful day!

IMG_7354
The awe-inspiring Horned Guan (Oreophasis derbianus) takes flight from the upper canopy of the cloud forest. Though the Horned Guan resembles other guans, it is not a true guan. It is actually the only surviving member of an ancient lineage of cracids.
_E1A1379-2
Horned Guan (Oreophasis derbianus)
IMG_7084
The view while hiking back down Cerro Paquisis.
IMG_7368
Our three-guan day included this Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens) and the Highland Guan (Penelopina nigra).
IMG_7165
Cruz Chikibal and I after a successful search for the Resplendent Quetzal the following day.

Sierra de los Cuchumatanes

4-5 February 2017

Several of my Guatemalan friends jokingly forbid me to leave the country without seeing Goldman’s and Pink-headed Warblers. Both regional endemics, Goldman’s and Pink-headed Warblers can be found in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, the highest non-volcanic mountain range in Central America. Enjoying our birding adventures (click here), Pablo Chumil and I decide to rent a car and make the long trip west in a quest to see these coveted birds. After driving all night, we arrive at Todos Santos where local guide, Esteban Matias, drives us on rough roads through a stunning landscape of grassland, rock outcroppings, and islands of pine trees and junipers.

_E1A8867-2
The Land of the Goldman’s Warbler.

Once in appropriate habitat, we hike through the hills and immediately find several  Goldman’s Warblers singing and foraging in the pine trees. While we spend a few hours observing the Goldman’s, we also see a variety of other highland species, many of which remind me of my home in Colorado. These birds include Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Brown Creepers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Rufous-collared Robins, Red Crossbills, Olive Warblers, Yellow-eyed Juncos, and Spotted Towhees.

_E1A9401-2
Adult male Goldman’s Warbler
_E1A9914-2
Young male Goldman’s Warbler
_E1A9772-2
As the fog rolls in, we move on to a different location for the Pink-headed Warbler. 

_E1A0376-2

A very cooperative Pink-headed Warbler puts on a spectacular show.

dddcvvvvffcdcc
Pablo, Esteban, and me after a successful Pink-headed Warbler photoshoot.

Me (left) and Pablo (right) photographing Goldman’s Warblers. Sometimes you need to climb a tree to get the desired vantage point.

_E1A0861-2-2
Pablo and I end our birding adventures at Fuentes Georginas near Quetzaltenango. At this hot spring/birding hotspot, we find Wine-throated Hummingbirds, Mountain Trogons, Blue-throated Motmots, Northern Emerald-Toucanets, Unicolored Jays, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercers, and a Chestnut-capped Brushfinch. 

Lago de Atitlán – Tzununa

19-23 January 2017

The long, winding descent to San Marcos La Laguna on Lake Atitlán was a harrowing ride. Accompanying the amazing views were sheer death defying drop offs, treacherous curves, and a blown engine. With the lingering screams of a half dozen fellow travelers ringing in my ears, I settle in the small and friendly village of Tzununa on the northwest side of the lake. Here, I decompress for a few days while I hike the surrounding hills, meet locals, and of course, go birding.

_E1A6321-2
Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)
_E1A6351-2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
_E1A6418-2
White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)
_E1A6588-2
White-faced Ground-Sparrow (Melozone biarcuata)
_E1A7234-2
Townsend’s Warbler (Setophaga townsendi)
_E1A6438-2
Fisherman at Dawn
_E1A6825-2
The Liquid Gold Waters of a Lake Atitlán Sunset 

IMG_6475